Why is it essential to your eye health to know your family history?

Why is it essential to your eye health to know your family history?

The fact of the matter is no matter how healthy of a lifestyle we maintain, certain things are out of our control. Our genetics play a pivotal role in our overall health and our predisposition to certain medical disorders. This is particularly true for conditions that affect our vision and eye health. Currently, there are over 350 eye-related conditions that are correlated to hereditary factors. Therefore, understanding your family history plays a huge role in preventing and delaying the onset of eye diseases, as well as maintaining eye health.

What is a family health history?

Put simply, your family’s health history is a basic record that logs your health as well as the health your close relatives. A complete record would include the health information of at least three generations of relatives – including all children, siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents and cousins. Your family’s health history can help health care practitioners determine a pattern of common disorders – both physical and mental – in your family that may impact your health. Once identified, the health care professional will be able to advise you on lifestyle changes or actions that you can take to prevent or delay the onset of genetic medical disorders.

How to record your family health history?

The best way to record your family history is to connect with your family members. Spend some time and sit down with family members or just start a conversation at your next family gathering. You’d be surprised what you could learn if you took some time to ask some basic questions. Moreover, ask enough questions, and soon enough, you’ll have more than enough information to see patterns and underlying genetic issues. If conversations aren’t enough to see the bigger picture, another great way to get information is to request death certificates and medical records of your deceased relatives.

Moreover, if you currently have an eye-related condition, ask your eye health professional if there is a genetic link. This could help you keep your family safe by ensuring they have regular eye tests and take the necessary steps to prevent the deterioration of their eye health.

What common eye conditions are linked to genetics?

Some of the most common causes of blindness and vision loss in Australia are correlated to genetics. But, more importantly, in Australia, around 90 per cent of vision loss is preventable or treatable.

Five of the most common genetically-linked eye conditions include:

  • Glaucoma – where the optic nerve, our eyes’ link to our brain, becomes damaged. Glaucoma-related vision loss often comes slowly, beginning with your peripheral vision. People with a family history of glaucoma are eight times more likely to develop glaucoma.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – an eye disease that causes your central vision to lose its sharpness, worsening over time. People with a genetic link to AMD are four times more likely to develop the disease.
  • Strabismus (crossed eyed) – occurs when the eyes are misaligned and can cause permanent damage to one eye if left untreated. Individuals are 65% more likely to have this condition if other family members present with it as well.
  • Myopia (nearsightedness) – is a common condition where individuals struggle to see objects further away. Children are 1.5x more likely to develop the condition if one parent has myopia. This risk is tripled for children with both parents presenting with myopia.
  • Hyperopia (farsightedness) – where objects far away are clear, but those nearby are blurry. Hyperopia is linked to both maternal and paternal genes.

Where we come from – and more importantly, who we come from – can tell us a lot about what’s to come. Although it won’t predict everything, understanding your family’s health history and sharing it with medical professionals can help prevent the onset of many diseases as we age. So, don’t put if off any longer; chat to your family members and tell us all about it so we can help keep your eyes healthy for years to come.

Make an appointment with Optical Insight today.


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